Strums & Strides

7 marathons. 7 continents. All for the healing power of music.

Join Nick Stukel on his journey to become the first medical student to run marathons on every continent while raising funds and awareness for Musicians On Call.

Running Down Under

Continent #6, check! When I started making plans to finish off the Strums & Strides seven continents marathon initiative around a year ago, I was unbelievably intimidated by the prospect of running three marathons in 2017…but I was also running out of time to complete the seven marathons before graduation, so I buckled up for an intense ride. As I write this, I’m now 2/3 of the way there: Antarctica and Australia done, with the final run in D.C. this October! Here are some brief updates from the marathon journey Down Under---

Brett (now marathon co-traveler for 3 continents) and I landed in Australia’s Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon with stiff legs from 22 hours of flying, daunted by the prospect of waking up early the next morning to start on the 26.2-mile mostly flat, beach-side trek. Jet lag worked in our favor, making the 5AM wake-up a little easier, and the Gold Coast delivered on its promise for perfect running weather: 60 degrees and sunny. It was my first large marathon in a while; I forgot how exciting (and wonderfully distracting) running with 6,000 other runners and twice as many spectators can be! The run went great overall, and I crossed the finish line just over 3 hours and 35 minutes…the only downside was that there weren’t any kangaroos on the course, which I had been hoping for after Antarctica’s course-side penguins.

The “global” aspect of the marathons are coming full swing in some really cool ways; I was able to spend most of the past few days with one of my friends (who lives in Brisbane near the Gold Coast) that I met on the Antarctica trip a couple months ago. I was excited to get the chance to visit a Children’s hospital and learn about all of the music programs hospitals are integrating into healthcare here --- they are doing some incredible work to bring music to patients, like building fully outfitted, kid-run “radio studios” in-house at hospitals. As the conversations about music and medicine continue, I’m encouraged to learn about the ways that healthcare providers are integrating arts with the healing process.

Now for some post-marathon exploring, and on to the final marathon in October. Thanks for your continued support, and more updates to come as October approaches! Keep running.

The Last Continent

Done. After three years of planning and months of early-morning runs in the cold and wind, a major chapter in my Strums & Strides journey across the world is now coming to a close. I finished the marathon (about an hour ahead of my goal time!), explored some of the most remote places on the planet with the coolest mom I know, and forged new friendships with an incredibly adventurous group of people. This makes the task of distilling the journey down to a couple paragraphs seem as intimidating as the marathon itself…

I think the best way to summarize the Antarctic experience is through a quick story from one of our last days on the continent. The expedition leaders woke us up early – just before sunrise – and after a quick breakfast, we climbed down the ship’s gangway into zodiacs (small, sturdy rubber boats) for a morning cruise around a bay called Cierva Cove. My mom and I hopped in the first zodiac with ten other eager passengers, and we quickly broke away from the group to get a close-up with some whales that someone had spotted earlier. As we approached the massive mammals, our driver cut the engine and we sat there, listening. The silence was unlike anything I had ever heard before: cold and crisp nothingness, occasionally interrupted by the gurgling of whales breathing or the crashing thunder of a piece of glacier calving into the ocean to form an iceberg. The peace and perspective of this moment became a theme throughout my time in Antarctica (interestingly, even during the marathon) and it is something I will carry with me for a long time.

In fact, as I near the end of my Strums & Strides initiative (Australia in July, and DC in October), I continue to learn that the perspective gained from this journey is just as impactful as the marathons themselves. What started out as a race across the planet for the healing power of music has slowly become much more, and I continue to be awed by the beauty of our planet and the people who call it home.

Time to get a little R&R before training begins for the Australia race. Until next time, keep running.

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